Improving LGBTI Inclusion in Aged Care
12 May 2017 at 5:08 pm
As many as one in 10 people over the age of 65 identify as LGBTI, according to a new training video released by the Aged Care Channel (ACC) and the Department of Health.
The video, launched on the ACC website on Wednesday, aims to increase inclusion and awareness of LGBTI issues within the aged care sector and better improve service to this community.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health told Pro Bono News the video was delivering on the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy designed to assist the aged care sector in considering LGBTI appropriate service delivery within their own organisations.
“LGBTI people are recognised as a special needs group under the Aged Care Act 1997, and the strategy was developed in recognition of their past experiences of discrimination and the need to ensure appropriate aged care and access for LGBTI people,” she said.
Roy Starkey, client services officer for ACON, told Pro Bono News the video was an important first step in eliminating discrimination LGBTI people could experience when they encountered aged care services.
“We know that in the general population 6 to 10 per cent of the population identify as LGBTI and that is no different for the ageing population. That is a fair number of people who are going to require aged care now and into the future,” Starkey said.
He said that it was often a re-traumatising experience for members of the LGBTI community to enter residential aged care.
“We know that this community has a lived experience of systemic discrimination in this country. They have been stigmatised, discriminated against and harassed, and institutions have failed to treat them as equal citizens,” he said.
“The rates of anxiety and depression are a lot higher for people who identify as LGBTI. It is not because they are LGBTI, rather, it is because they have experienced years of discrimination and injustice and live in fear.”
Starkey said people who identified as LGBTI had experienced or were in fear of social isolation, harassment and discrimination from staff, other residents and their families in residential homes.
As a consequence of such fear, LGBTI people may not disclose their sexual and gender orientations – which could also have repercussions on their physical health.
“There was one woman I know who had transitioned [from being a male to female] years ago and took hormones for the transition but stopped as soon as she entered an aged care facility for fear of being found out,” Starkey said.
It can also be an issue for the transexual community, as males who have transitioned to become females still have a prostate and people born biologically female could have problems with bone density.
Starkey said creating a safe, open and welcoming space where people felt safe enough to disclose their sexual and gender orientations was vital.
“The problem is that sexual orientation and gender are not even asked on intake, it is seen as too intrusive. There are only male, female boxes,” he said.
He said sex and sexuality for the ageing were rarely discussed and the ageing LGBTI community experienced double discrimination.
“Ageism is systematic these days, almost nobody wants to talk about sex or sexuality in the ageing,” he said.
Starkey recommended potential staff in the aged care sector should undergo values tests to ascertain their attitudes to LGBTI.
“Tolerance is not good enough, it’s like accepting something because you have to, or even if you don’t like it. What we are asking for is acceptance,” he said.
He also recommended that more aged care facilities consider writing sexuality policies and applying for the rainbow tick – an initiative which formally accredits an organisation for LGBTI Inclusive Practices – to provide a welcoming space for the community.
“If you think about it, the faith-based organisations used to be the ones who provided residential aged care facilities and services. Some have been really good and accepting in their policies for LGBTI but there is only one with the rainbow tick,” he said.
In lieu of this, Starkey encouraged aged care workers and managers to watch the LGBTI: Inclusion and Awareness for the Aged Care Sector video.
The free 24-minute video can be accessed on the ACC website here.